Snapshot: Reconnecting with an old friend at Kaboom’s 2000th Playground Build

Just like old times: Paul and Michelle working together at Kaboom's 2000th Playground Build. Credit: Associated Press/Manuel Balce Caneta

Kaboom is one of our Partner Organizations at Public Allies Washington DC.  Their mission is to create great playspaces through the participation and leadership of communities. Ultimately, we envision a place to play within walking distance of every child in America.  Yesterday, they just performed their 2,000th build at Washington D.C.’s Imagine Southeast Public Charter School.  Our CEO, Paul Schmitz, was on hand to lend a hand to the proceedings, as well as to catch up with one of our colleagues, Michelle Obama.

Video | Why is our boss promising to jump into a lake?

Because it’s year-end fund-raising time, that’s why! Paul Schmitz, our fearless leader, has never done the Polar Bear Plunge thing before, but he’s willing to do it now if we meet our fund-raising goal. In case you haven’t heard about it before, the Polar Bear Plunge is quite the New Year’s Day tradition in certain chilly places around the country, including here in Milwaukee where Public Allies is based.

Check back to see how it turns out!

Guest blogger | Funny, but sad, but in the end — inspiring

Casey Bridgeford

Today’s guest blogger is Casey Bridgeford, and if you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll remember that we introduced him to you back in April in one of our staff Q&As. Casey is a program manager at Public Allies Indianapolis. This post, along with a link to this video, originally appeared in his personal blog, Revenge of the ILLIgans!  The headline sums up how I felt when I saw the video and then read Casey’s post. — DMB


Many people are waiting on a “real” leader to step up and solve the problems we are facing. They would argue that our country is standing still, and in some cases sliding backwards because politicians just don’t get it. Some would say that it is because most of our religious leaders are either corrupt or worse — cowards. Even other people would say that greedy businessmen are the problem.

What I believe is that the problem is me. I am the problem. Everyone like me who has passed up on an opportunity to help themselves is the problem. Anyone like me who has overlooked the opportunity to share their extra (knowledge, time, money, strength) is the problem.

The buck doesn’t stop with the politician — it stops with me. It stops with normal people. We are the answer we have been waiting for. Everyone of us who is the problem … is also THE Solution.

For the past 14 months I have been working with a community organization called Public Allies, which operates with the mindset that Everybody Leads. This simply means that everyone brings something to the table. There is no such thing as an extra person. Each person has something to contribute. Most people will contribute their time, talents, and passion, if given the right opportunity and support.

Public Allies gives that support to young adults who have made up their minds that they don’t look like a leader, leadership looks like them.

Without programs like Public Allies, people keep addressing problems the same way. We look for the expert to tell us what our problem is and how they are the only one who is able to fix it for us. Its this kind of thinking that has us stuck on an escalator with no good sense to walk the rest of the way. We are so used to depending on others, that we miss the opportunity to solve our own problems.

So when you wake up and look yourself in the mirror, remember you are looking at The New Face of Leadership!

Video | We’re ready to get started!

This is the new video we’re using for our home page at We hope you like it. Here’s the story behind it.

In August, Public Allies held a gathering of everyone in its network. Staff and operating partners from all 21 of our sites visited Milwaukee, Wis. (where we’re headquartered) to meet with board members and others. We had workshops on things like social media, Gen Y, alumni engagement, change management and more. We also did a little socializing, too (though of course it was all very professional, even the karaoke parts).

Anyway, we figured it was also a great opportunity to take some photographs of our staff. A wonderful photgrapher named Kevin Miyazaki donated his time to do this, and he was terrific.

We’ll be using the images to help the great wide world get to know us a little better. The 48 people in this video — actually a slide show — are program managers, site directors, executive directors, recruitment directors and second-year Allies, among others (including your humble Allies2010 bloggers). They are mentors, trainers, community leaders and entrepreneurs. They are among the hardest workers and the most committed people I’ve ever worked with, and I think we need to brag on them a lot more than we do.

Anyway, this video helps us get our “new year” started. Beginning in late August and continuing into October (depending on the site), our 10-month “Ally Year” begins with the arrival of the Allies who will work as apprentices in local non-profits and undergo a demanding schedule of training and team service projects for their communities.

Want to know who the people in this slide show are? Here’s a list corersponding to their appearance in the slide show, in groups of six and with their site noted in parentheses. Alas, we didn’t get a photograph of everyone, but this is a pretty representative slice of the Public Allies network.

Group 1: Myisha Brown (Ariz.); Jenise Terrell (National Office); Steve Sullivan (Chicago); Nelly Nieblas (National); Alison Peebles (Pittsburgh); Dexter Bland (Del.)
Group 2: Laura Bumiller (Md.); Diane Bacha (National); Pawan Bhardwaj (Chicago); Christina Dang (Silicon Valley); Reymundo Armendariz (Silicon Valley); Ebony Scott (Chicago).
Group 3: Un Jin Krantz (Cincinnati); Jennifer Brown (Central Fla.); MacArthur Antigua (National); Raquel Davila (Pittsburgh); Marilyn DeArmas (Miami); Merilou Gonzales (National)
Group 4: Roger Hesketh (Del.); Nekeisha Neal (Washington, D.C.); Michael Allen (National); Elysse Wageman (Milwaukee); RoseMary Oliveira (National); Alexandra Ponce Murillo (Silicon Valley)
Group 5: Gerri Odum (North Carolina); Casey Bridgeford (Indianapolis); Eric Maynard (National);  Khalia Brown Sanders (Cincinnati); Danise Sugita (San Francisco); Antonio Cardona (Twin Cities)
Group 6: Max Chang (New York City); Edward Gonzalez-Novoa (New York City); John Viet (Silicon Valley); Asha Loring (Miami); Megan Johnson (Indianapolis); Margrette Castro (National)
Group 7: Ava Hernandez (Milwaukee); Elizabeth Hammond (Conn.); Tyler Driscoll (Conn.); Karla Radka (Central Fla.); Kate Flynn (Milwaukee); Don Chojnacki (Milwaukee)
Group 8: Justin Knight (Washington, D.C.); Nicole M. Thomas (Milwaukee); Malkia Lydia (Washington, D.C.); Tynisha Worthy (Cincinnati); Megan Coombes (National); Antony “T.J.” Hughes (N.C.) 

We’re ready for our new year! We hope you keep reading Allies2010 to watch our progress.

:: See more of Kevin Miyazaki’s work at his website.

On Graduation, 13 years later.

Public Allies Chicago '97. That's me in the backline, between Rick Manabat and Jaime de Leon

We’ve reached the “graduation season” of the program year.  As my co-workers in the national office shared stories of attending Presentations of Learning, and our Operation: Congratulations effort has invited me to be reflective on my own graduation from Public Allies 13 years ago.  I rustled up a few photos from my shoebox, and tried to piece together memories like Guy Pearce from Memento.

I don’t remember much from that day.  I vaguely remember doing Team Service Read the rest of this entry »

Video | The latest Super-Adventures!

Last week I updated you about a wacky series of videos the Public Allies National Office is putting together in support of a campaign this month. Here are the two latest.

One of our goals with these videos is to communicate what we’re all about. If you’re not familiar with trends in leadership education, national service and those sorts of things, it can start sounding a little wonky. So the idea of super-heroes came to our rescue, so to speak.

We created characters that correspond with Public Allies’ five core values. Our CEO Paul Schmitz is doing continuous learning proud as The Professor, dapper in his cape and bow tie — that’s him featured in the first video here.  The value collaboration is represented with swashbuckling finesse by Captain Collaboration — also known as David R. Todd, sponsorship director for Milwaukee and Chicago. David McKinney, our VP of Programs, is wowing ’em as Integrity Man, representing of course the value of integrity. And diversity/inclusion are co-represented by Alumni Relations Director Merilou Gonzales and Executive Assistant Melinda Rodriguez.

And since every Super-Hero needs a good Evil Villain, we recruited  Program Consultant Michael Allen to be Dr. Apathy.

Asset-focused principles will be represented by my fellow Allies2010 blogger MacArthur Antigua. We haven’t settled on a Super-Hero name for him yet. MacAsset? Leave a comment if you have a better idea and if we pick yours there will be a super-prize in it for ya!

Video | Fun with Super-Heroes

My fellow blogger Mac and I have been a little off schedule with our postings the last two weeks. The holiday, application deadlines, and vacation days have all had something to do with it, but one of us has also been busy with a June Facebook Causes campaign. (You may remember a mysterious posting about this two weeks ago.)

Captain Collaboration

We’ve chosen a super-heroes theme for the campaign, in part because the super/action hero thing is kind of a hot right now (Iron Man 2Prince of Persia and, yes, I’d even count MacGruber). It’s also really easy to spoof the genre and you can put together a pretty good super-hero costume on the cheap.

We also liked the idea of underscoring Public Allies’ five core values by creating a super-hero around each one. So expect to meet masked men and women who represent the “super-powers” of  collaboration, continuous learning, diversity/inclusion, focus on assets, and integrity. We’ve been having fun camping it up. Here are episodes 1 and 2. Unless the reviews by our Allies2010 readers demand otherwise, we’ll keep posting each episode for your fun and amusement.

The Adventures of Public Allies Super-Heroes, Episode 1 (introducing Captain Collaboration)

The Adventures of Public Allies Super-Heroes, Episode 2 (introducing Integrity Man)

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